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Animal welfare board is a pain in the neck, says Vishal Bhardwaj 

The Pataakha (2008) director is not surprised by the murmurs of government mulling over censorship of digital content.

Abhishek Chaubey, Ramesh Sippy, Vishal Bhardwaj and moderator Minty Tejpal at Film Bazaar 2018 in Goa. Photo: Shutterbugs Images

Mayur Lookhar

Director-music composer Vishal Bhardwaj, veteran filmmaker Ramesh Sippy, and Abhishek Chaubey were in discussion at a session on producers and directors who changed the game, at the recently concluded 49th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) 2018 in Goa. The session was moderated by journalist Minty Tejpal.

Sippy is best known for making the blockbuster Sholay (1975). Bhardwaj has to his credit acclaimed films like Maqbool (2004), Omkara (2006) and Haider (2014). Chaubey, who has assisted Bhardwaj, has directed films like Ishqiya (2010), Dedh Ishiqya (2014) and Udta Punjab (2016). The young filmmaker turned producer with A Death In The Gunj (2017).

There wasn’t much talk about changing the game per se, but the trio was candid in their views on a digital platform, and censorship. Does the digital space impact the cinema business though?
Bhardwaj couldn’t wait to explore the digital medium, he said. “As soon as possible. It is such a creative freedom for a director. The web-series has offered something unique to the director. In cinema, often you have to let go of content at edit table. Web-series give you that freedom.”

Sippy welcomed the new viewing platforms, but he did not think that it would hurt theatrical business. "The web-series are offering to do what you want, at the time you want. There is no limitation to either time or creativity. Even the censor lines are far broader at the moment. But there is already talk of censorship, the industry is always sensitive to censorship. However, I must that it has gone through a lot of changes. Filmmakers have a lot more liberty today.”

As the talk veered towards censorship, the trio was asked what they made of talk about censorship in the digital space. Bhardwaj was not surprised that the government is thinking on those lines.

"What is the point of reaction? Will they listen to us? When they put a 'No Smoking' ticker on a running visual did they hear us? Do they hear even now? This is the only nation in the whole world that has a 'No Smoking' ticket on running visuals. How ridiculous is that?,” said Bhardwaj.

The Pataakha (2018) filmmaker hit out at the animal welfare board in strong words. “The animal welfare board is a pain in the neck if I can’t say arse. It’s like all the social evil is because of films. Films are a soft target,” said Bhardwaj.

Udta Punjab director Chaubey felt people in power never take cinema seriously.

“People in power don’t take arts and cinema seriously. They think we are bhands [dancers, singers], they do not look at cinema as cultural documents, as cultural exploration, or the voice of our time. They just look at us from point of people who perform to door to make money. I think this government is having a hard time giving employment to people, they are not interested in changing cinema or understanding the culture of Indian cinema. They just want to control,” said Chaubey.

Commenting on the transition from direction to production, Chaubey said, “It is very important for creative people to take control of their own material. That’s the reason we turned producers. When we turn producers, we have to be conscious of other aspects of filmmaking that we have not been conscious of as writers, directors. When you turn producers, even for a film that you are directing, you become responsible for putting your money where your mouth is. So you control your expenses.”

It took an aggrieved Gulzar for Bhardwaj to turn producer. The Pataakha filmmaker recalled how Gulzar was unhappy with the producers of Hu Tu Tu (1999) taking edit calls. Bhardwaj had scored music for the Gulzar directorial. “Gulzar was very upset as the final cut was not his. That was the time when I decided that I would never allow something like this to happen to me. In all my films, the final cut is mine,” said Bhardwaj.

For the veteran Sippy, he simply urged studios producers to back their director. “With Seeta Aur Geeta (1972), we had a budget of Rs40 lakh but with Sholay (1975) there was just a rough budget. It shot to Rs1 crore and then eventually it reached Rs3 crore. But my father [GP Sippy, producer of Sholay] never interfered. All corporates need to learn from this. You take a guy and you back him. Yes, once or twice things will go wrong, but you have to back him,” said Sippy.

If a director also produces his/her film and takes full control of the project, is there a possibility that the objectivity can sometimes be compromised?

"That's why you need more hands who can slap you. You need to have friends who can disagree with you, give you an honest feedback. You can't be a megalomaniac," said Bhardwaj.

Sippy agreed with it, but also reminded the need to be self-critical. "Having friends around you who can give you piece of advice is extremely helpful but you also should be able to be your own best critic. Raj Kapoor has many times reshot films. He would show his films to friends but he made the final decision," said Sippy.


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